The NSDL Scout Report for Life Sciences -- Volume 2, Number 1

January 10, 2003

A Publication of the Internet Scout Project
Computer Sciences Department, University of Wisconsin-Madison

In This Issue:




Topic In Depth


Flora of the Marquesas Islands
This Web site from the Smithsonian Institution's Department of Systematic Biology offers online access to taxonomic and geographical information on the vascular plants of the Marquesas Islands. An easy-to-use search tool retrieves plant checklists, which include species distribution and status information. Other features of this well-presented Web site include a searchable image gallery, curatorial information on collected specimens, a general account of the Marquesas, and some gorgeous panoramic photos. Look for additional features as the site develops. [RS]
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Profiles in Science: The Donald Fredrickson Papers
The National Library of Medicine has recently digitized and made available the work of Donald Fredrickson (1924-2002), a notable physiologist and biomedical researcher. Visitors are encouraged to begin with the online Exhibit, which includes biographical information and short essays about Dr. Fredrickson's work, as well as a selection of digitized documents and visuals organized by subject. Visitors may locate additional materials compiled in alphabetical or chronological listings, or by using the search engine. New items will become available to the public as the Donald Fredrickson Papers continue to be digitized. [RS]
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10th Report on Carcinogens [.pdf]
The US Department of Health and Human Services has recently made available its 10th Report on Carcinogens (RoC), as prepared by the National Toxicology Program located at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences (NIEHS). Users may view the entire report on this Web site provided by Environmental Health Perspectives, a peer-reviewed journal published by NIEHS. The RoC is an authoritative study that identifies and examines substances that pose a potential carcinogenic hazard to human health. For each listed substance, the report offers data on carcinogenicity, genotoxicity, biological mechanism, potential for human exposure, and existing Federal regulations to limit exposures. [RS]
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The National Academies Institute of Medicine Annual Meeting 2002 [.pdf, RealPlayer]
This Web site contains the proceedings of the National Academies Institute of Medicine Annual Meeting 2002. Presentations from the first day of the conference, focused on "Genomics and the Future of Health in Society," may be of most interest to researchers in this field. Users may listen to the speeches, and a few of the presentations include viewable slides. Topics covered include the Human Genome Project, cardiovascular disease and post-genomic medicine, the Innocence Project, and more. [RS]
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The UK Biobank: A Study of Genes, Environment, and Health
The UK Biobank project, slated to begin in 2004, will collect epidemiological data for use by biomedical researchers investigating the contribution of genes and environment to human health and disease. With up to half a million participants between ages 45 and 69, this long-term study will be the largest of its kind in medical history. Visitors to the UK Biobank Web site may read over the project's research agenda, which aims to improve the diagnostic tools, prevention strategies, and treatments for diseases and disorders that occur later in life. The UK Biobank project is a collaborative project of England's Medical Research Council, Wellcome Trust, and Department of Health. [RS]
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EPA Enforcement and Compliance History Online
The US Environmental Protection Agency has recently launched Enforcement and Compliance History Online (ECHO). ECHO retrieves environmental records for approximately 800,000 regulated facilities nationwide. These data are freely accessible under the Freedom of Information Act, but have not been available online until recently. Searching by location yields a list of facilities and businesses in the area, with summary data indicating 1) whether the EPA or state/ local governments have conducted inspections; 2) whether violations were detected; and 3) whether enforcement took place and penalties were assessed. ECHO should prove a useful resource for research in the environmental sciences. [RS]
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Directory of Research Systematics Collections
The Directory of Research Systematics Collections (DRSC) offers online access to information about the natural history research collections of museums and institutions across the US. The DRSC -- a joint project of the Natural Science Collections Alliance and the US Geological Survey Biological Resources Division -- offers a convenient, one-stop resource for locating research specimens. The DRSC's simple interface allows searches by parent institution name or by taxonomic and geographic criteria combined. Extensive scrollable lists are provided for each search method. [RS]
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Two on the Honey Bee Genome
AgNews: Honey Bee Genome Being Sequenced
Human Genome Sequencing Center: Baylor College of Medicine
The first Web site contains a news release from Texas A&M University Agriculture Program, which describes a project recently launched at the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center to sequence the honey bee genome. The honey bee, one of five animals chosen by the National Institutes of Health for genetic sequencing, will be the first agricultural animal to have its genome sequenced. The second Web site is the home page of the Baylor College of Medicine Human Genome Sequencing Center. While information about the honey bee project has yet to go online, this will be the site to watch as the project progresses. [RS]
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Song of the Earth
This PBS Web site is the online companion to the Nature documentary "Song of the Earth," hosted by David Attenborough. The program explores the elemental purpose of music and offers a fascinating look at the connection between animal sounds and human music. The site includes two detailed lesson plans that integrate science and language arts, designed for grades 9-12. Learning objectives include conducting research on animal behavior, applying scientific methodology, synthesizing information to create presentations, and more. The main Song of the Earth Web site has other features -- such as a list of related links and a photo essay of animal music -- that would make excellent additions to classroom activities. [RS]
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Backyard Jungle
Created by Forum One Communications and funded by the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, Backyard Jungle is a kid-friendly Web site where members can upload photos, drawings, and descriptions of their own backyard or other natural area to share with an online community. Membership registration is straightforward and free of charge. While Backyard Jungle does not include any formal lesson plans or educational activities, it offers kids a fun incentive to explore and communicate about their natural surroundings. The Web site is open to non-members, who may learn about the backyards and interesting discoveries of members who have contributed material. [RS]
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Mud Fossils
This Web site from the US Geological Survey contains a hands-on, highly interactive lesson plan about mud fossils. Intended for grades 1-3, the lesson plan provides detailed background information for teachers on how fossils are formed and subsequently exposed. Part of the classroom activity requires students to observe real fossils; tips on finding a source for borrowed specimens are provided. Students also create their own fossils from everyday materials. The entire lesson plan requires two class periods to complete, with 3-4 days between activities to allow fossils to dry. [RS]
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Mammoth Extinction
Science Netlinks offers this Web-based lesson plan for grades 9-12. The lesson invites students to explore various hypotheses regarding the extinction of the woolly mammoth, with a particular focus on infectious disease. Students use provided worksheets to conduct online research on the topic, focusing on a 1998 American Museum of Natural History expedition to the Arctic circle to hunt for mammoth fossils. In addition to learning about the woolly mammoth and other large mammals that became extinct in the late Quaternary period, students also acquire an understanding of the scientific process and how scientific knowledge can change as the interaction between theory and observation further develops. [RS]
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Muscle Physiology
The Muscle Physiology Lab at the University of California-San Diego provides this comprehensive source of information on the neuromuscular system. The Web site appears as a extensive menu of subtopics, each leading to pages of detailed text and diagrams. Students studying muscle structure and function should find this well-organized and authoritative resource extremely useful. The Web site also includes a search tool for quickly finding pages of interest, and a list of related links for additional information. [RS]
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Pizza Explorer [Flash]
Access Excellence presents Purdue University's Pizza Explorer, an engaging teaching tool for food science designed for middle and high school students. Students learn about food processing, chemistry, and nutritional composition of eight pizza ingredients. This multimedia, interactive program aims to demonstrate how science applies to everyday life. Students can choose between two interfaces (left brain or right brain) to suit their particular learning style. Other features include a pop-up glossary, quizzes, games, and additional information about each topping (Hot Topics). Pizza Explorer takes some time to download with a 56K connection, but you can play a game while you wait. [RS]
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Brain Explorer
Brain Explorer is an educational Web site from the Lundbeck Institute that provides a highly visual and informative tour of the brain. Brain Atlas offers a good starting point, with well-designed diagrams of the brain and spinal cord, detailed explanatory information, and a handy pop-up glossary (which contains great graphics of its own). The section titled Neurological Control describes neuron structure and function. Other features include a section on brain disorders and an extensive image gallery. While Brain Explorer offers a thorough look at brain structure and function, it would probably best serve students who are already familiar with the subject but need a comprehensive review. [RS]
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Genetics: Decoding Life
This Web site contains a suite of educational activities for middle and high school students relating to Genetics: Decoding Life -- an exhibit currently at Chicago's Museum of Science and Industry. Collect Your Own DNA! and How Big is a Gene? offer engaging, stand-alone classroom exercises, while Discussion Questions could be used to help students explore online exhibit materials. The other available activities are designed to complement a visit to the physical exhibit. The site also includes related links, a list of recommended reading, and an extensive glossary of genetics terms. [RS]
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ScienceTunnel [Flash, RealPlayer, QuickTime]
This Web site contains the virtual version of ScienceTunnel, a museum exhibit currently at the Museum of Science and Industry in Manchester, England. Created by the Max-Planck-Society, ScienceTunnel invites visitors to "travel through the dimensions of this world and onward to the outskirts of our knowledge." Visitors explore twelve orders of magnitude, from the composition of subatomic particles to the unfolding of the universe. Within each of the twelve stations, visitors will find spectacular images (including the occasional movie clip) and links to related research from the Max-Planck-Society. While the flashy visuals are appealing, navigating through this Web site can feel a bit like getting lost in a disco. But after a little trial and error, visitors should have no problem making the most of ScienceTunnel. This Web site is available in German. [RS]
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Visitors to this Web site can keep tabs on the state of the planet with Worldometers -- automatic counters tallying real-time changes in a number of global indicators. Worldometers is presented by o.s.EARTH, Inc., a nonprofit research and education organization that provides "experiential, simulation-based learning and training about world resources and issues." Visitors may view counters in the following areas: Population, Energy, Food Supply, Health, Education, Environment, and Economy and Government. The Web site is simply presented, and while visitors will have to look elsewhere for a discussion of the issues presented, the counters themselves paint a rather vivid picture of global concerns. [RS]
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Smallpox [.pdf]
On December 13, 2002, President Bush announced a strategy to better protect Americans against the threat of smallpox attack. This Web site from the Department of Health and Human Service (DHHS) offers a comprehensive resource for information on smallpox, aiming at an audience of healthcare professionals, medical researchers, and the general public. Sections that would interest the general reader include Smallpox Basics; CDC's Smallpox Response Plan and Guidelines; Vaccine/ Vaccination information; and Information for Kids, Teens, and Parents. Links within each section lead to informative pages from DHHS or other Web sites. Many pages are available in Spanish. [RS]
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Oil, Out of Control
Oil, Out of Control is an in-depth Whyfiles story that follows from news coverage of an oil spill off Spain's northwest coast in 2002. This Web site offers a straight look at the issues surrounding this and other famous oil spills, particularly that of the Exxon Valdez off Prince William Sound in 1992. The authors make clear the allegiances of people quoted in the story, while clearly explaining both the science and politics of oil spills and cleanup efforts. The Web site also features a news release from Unocal regarding a spill in Indonesia, with a humorous Whyfiles "plain-English" translation of slippery corporate jargon. [RS]
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How the Earth Fared [.pdf]
Environmental Defense, a nonprofit organization that "brings together experts in science, law and economics to tackle complex environmental issues," presents How the Earth Fared, a year-in-review of environmental news in 2002. Available as a 4-page document, How the Earth Fared highlights developments and setbacks in the following areas: climate change and global warming, natural resources, endangered species and wildlife habitat protection, antibiotic resistance and organic foods, toxic chemicals, air quality, and oceans. The document includes links to relevant articles. [RS]
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The Allergy Authority [Windows Media]
The Allergy Authority, created in collaboration with and funded by an educational grant from Schering-Plough (the makers of Claritin), offers "information necessary to make informed decisions about the control of allergy symptoms." The Web site describes the different types of allergies, how allergies develop, the difference between chronic and seasonal allergies, the side effects of allergy medications, and more. The site's main sections -- The Basics of Allergies, Seasonal or Chronic Allergies, and Treating Your Allergies -- each contain video clips and short articles on a number of related topics. While in at least one video clip Claritin is mentioned specifically, the content of the Web site seems generally inclusive and noncommercial. [RS]
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Hot Topics: Alcohol [RealPlayer]
This Web site from the BBC provides a multi-faceted exploration of the science of alcohol. Visitors may browse eight detailed pages relating the science of alcohol production, how alcohol is absorbed and processed by the body, what happens when you've had too much, and much more. The clear yet detailed content of this site goes far to clear up alcohol-related misconceptions and misinformation. Other features include alcohol trivia, a quiz, movie and audio clips of alcohol-related BBC documentaries, links to other health Web sites for additional information, and a public message board. [RS]
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Search the USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
The USDA Agricultural Research Service Nutrient Data Laboratory presents the National Nutrient Database, which has an easy-to-search interface that quickly retrieves nutritional data for every food item that contains a specific keyword. For instance, searching for "soybean" calls up a long list of food items for which soybean is an ingredient: various margarines, salad dressings, and oils; raw soybeans; steamed soybeans; roasted soybeans; and so on. The complete nutrition report for each item can then be viewed after selecting a unit of measurement (e.g., per 100 grams). The database may also be search by single nutrients, such as iron or folic acid. [RS]
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Topic In Depth

1. Hibernation
2. NOVA: Secrets of Hibernation
3. Cold-blooded Solutions to Warm-blooded Problems [RealPlayer]
4. Dry, Dry Again
5. BugInfo: Where Do Insects Go in the Winter?
6. Hibernation
7. Garter Snake Hibernaculum
Some animals deal with winter by not dealing with it. This collection of Web sites highlights the phenomenon of hibernation and a few of the species that opt for this coping strategy. MSN Encarta provides the first Web site, which presents a solid overview of hibernation in the animal kingdom, including the distinction between true hibernation and other types of torpor (1). Next, PBS offers a look at the world's largest hibernator -- the bear -- in an article from the Web site for the NOVA documentary titled Japan's Secret Garden (2). The article describes the winter habits of the black bear, and what understanding bear hibernation physiology means for human organ preservation, kidney disorders, human hibernation, and even long-distance space travel. Similarly, wood frogs and their amazing ability to freeze solid during the winter months has led to the development of the world's first technology for preserving organs at subfreezing temperatures. San Francisco's Exploratorium presents the research of Dr. Boris Rubinsky, who pioneered this technology, and other interesting facts about wood frogs in a well-designed and informative Web site (3). The December 2002/ January 2003 issue of Natural History Magazine, published by the American Museum of Natural History, features a sizeable article describing the fascinating physiological adaptations these tortoises have evolved to cope with their extreme environments, including a lengthy hibernation and a complicated cycle of feeding and urine retention (4). And what do insects do in the winter? The Entomology Section of the Smithsonian's Department of Systematic Biology provides a brief account of different insect strategies for surviving cold weather, from mig ration to hibernation to overwintering as eggs, larvae, nymphs, or pupae (5). The next Web site contains a transcript of the December 31, 2002 segment of the radio series Earth and Sky (6). The transcript touches briefly on Hibernation Inducement Trigger, an opiate compound found in the blood of true hibernators. Steve Sarre and Doug Armstrong of New Zealand's Massey University have posted a great photograph of a garter snake hibernaculum, or winter den, on their vertebrate zoology course Web site (7). Phil, the most celebrated hibernator of all, gets his own Web site with, the official site of the Punxsutawney Groundhog Club (8). Visitors to this site may find out all the festivities planned for Phil's famous February 2nd weather prediction. [RS]
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